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Mitchell residents urge city to ban 5G technology due to alleged health risks, officials ‘not concerned’

The concerned citizens claim radiofrequency radiation emitted from 5G is causing harmful health effects, but city leaders remain unconcerned, saying the allegations are unproven.

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Shown here is a 4G cell phone tower that sits next to the Performing Arts Center in Mitchell. Some Mitchell residents are claiming that the 4G tower also has 5G technology installed.
Adam Thury / Mitchll Republic
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MITCHELL — A group of Mitchell residents claiming 5G technology is causing “serious health implications” are urging city leaders to ban the new wireless technology, but some of the city’s top-elected officials say they're not concerned.

In front of a packed crowd gathered at Monday’s Mitchell City Council meeting, Beth Bauer and Sonja VanErdewyk claimed 5G is “sickening millions of people” who reside in cities where the wireless technology exists.

Bauer and VanErdewyk are among a handful of Mitchell residents who have been echoing their concerns about 5G, alleging the radiation exposure from the radiofrequency (RF) electromagnetic fields that 5G small cell facilities and cell phones emit is causing health problems ranging from cancer to ADHD.

“You all are greatly concerned about the health of the community, and so are we. We really want you to think twice about allowing more 5G into the community,” VanErdewyk said during Monday’s council meeting, alleging Mitchell has several 5G towers. “I started noticing tremors in my legs and hands three years ago, and I’m a healthy person. Some of the symptoms can be lack of motivation, anxiety, depression, memory loss.”

The city council provided the group of concerned citizens with an opportunity to discuss 5G during Monday's meeting, but no action was taken. After the citizens echoed their fears of 5G, Mitchell City Council President Kevin McCardle said 5G is “not something I’m concerned about,” citing Verizon's information that the technology is not harmful to humans.

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While the group of Mitchell residents are concerned of the alleged health complications they claim 5G causes, Mayor Bob Everson said Mitchell does not have 5G technology.

“Anyone looking to install a 5G small cell facility, including cell phone providers and private parties, is required to put an application in and get a permit from the city. There has yet to be any permits approved in Mitchell,” Everson said.

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Shown here is a 4G cell phone tower that sits next to the Performing Arts Center in Mitchell.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

Bauer and VanErdewyk dispute the city’s claim that 5G has yet to be deployed in Mitchell, as both say their handheld radio frequency meters have detected 5G in parts of the city.

Everson noted there could be 5G transmitters on cell phone companies’ existing 4G towers because they are not subject to the same regulations for installing 5G small cell facilities. However, Everson and other city officials have not seen evidence that cell phone providers have installed 5G on their 4G towers that they own in Mitchell.

“My phone has never once shown the option of connecting to 5G anywhere in the city. The FCC regulates the cell phone companies and their existing towers, but the city regulates any new small cell 5G facilities,” Everson said. “From what I’ve researched and learned, 5G is not a cause for concern for me. We wanted to give the group a chance to discuss this at their request, and they used all 10 minutes to present."

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is the agency that regulates the health safety standards for 5G and determines what radiofrequency radiation levels in wireless technology are safe for humans to be exposed to. Since the rollout of 5G technology in 2018 — which major cell phone companies have touted for its ability to produce the fastest download speeds — the FCC has maintained its position that the current radiofrequency radiation exposure limits are “protective of public health.”

Bauer, who moved to Mitchell from Minneapolis due to radiation sickness she said was caused by 5G, criticized the FCC’s 5G regulatory measures, claiming the agency has not provided any long term studies and proof that 5G is safe. She said the FCC ignored “scientific evidence that 5G is harmful.” As Bauer put it, the FCC and cell phone companies deploying 5G “need to have the burden of proof” that the new wireless technology is safe.

“In 2019, the FCC admitted there were no 5G safety studies conducted by their agency. Why would the FCC ignore such information when they knew it existed. They are what’s called a captured agency because a large portion of their funding comes from the sector they are supposed to be regulating,” Bauer said, pointing to the wireless cell phone companies as the sector she claims helps fund the FCC.

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Everson said representatives of Verizon were invited to Monday’s council meeting to participate in the 5G discussion, but none appeared. Instead, Verizon officials submitted a document to the council that rejected the claims 5G is harmful and has not been studied.

“Scientists in the U.S. and around the world have conducted research on RF energy for decades," Verizon's document read. "In December 2019, in a unanimous and bipartisan decision, the FCC affirmed that the same radio-frequency safety standards that apply to earlier wireless technologies (3G and 4G) apply to 5G.”

Sioux Falls was the first city in the state to roll out 5G technology. Mitchell is in position to welcome 5G small cell facilities to be placed in the community after the city council approved an ordinance in 2019 that paved the way for wireless technology companies to deploy 5G cell towers in Mitchell, a move that many cities have made in recent years.

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Federal Communications Commission Commissioner Brendan Carr, center, examines the installation of high-speed internet equipment on Midco's 330-foot telecommunications tower in Mitchell in 2019.
Photo courtesy of Midco Communications

Pressuring FCC for studies on 5G safety

Bauer and VanErdewyk recently purchased handheld electromagnetic field meters that they claim have shown some 5G cell phones have detected radiation levels 100 times above what the FCC deems safe.

The group of concerned citizens pointed to a recent lawsuit that ruled against the FCC for the agency’s decision not to review its radiofrequency emissions guidelines that date back to 1996 as another key piece of evidence the council should consider to ban 5G technology.

The lawsuit against the FCC was filed by the Children’s Health Defense, resulting in the U.S. Court of Appeals ruling last year that the FCC “failed to provide a reasoned explanation for its determination that its guidelines adequately protect against the harmful effects of exposure to radiofrequency radiation unrelated to cancer.”

Concerns about the radiofrequency radiation levels in wireless phones aren’t new, as several independent labs have conducted tests in recent years to explore whether cell phone manufacturers are complying with the FCC’s safety guidelines.

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The maximum Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) exposure that the FCC deems “safe” for cell phones is set at 1.6 watts per kilogram. While the FCC states it requires all cell phone manufacturers to ensure their wireless phones comply with the limits, an independent lab in California recently conducted a test on an iPhone 11 Pro that the lab says showed the phone had an exposure rate of 3.8 watts per kilogram. According to California-based RF Exposure Lab, the cell phone was set 5 millimeters away from a mannequin with simulated human tissue.

“I’ve used my meter to test other people’s 5G phones, and I’ve found they maxed my meter out, which is 100 times what scientists consider safe,” Bauer said. “The FCC is using guidelines from 1996, which means they are using data on wireless safety from pre-1996. They simply ignored the 11,000 pages of scientific evidence that’s been done since that time, which proves wireless communication is unsafe.”

For 4G – which is the main wireless technology in Mitchell – most mobile devices operate at frequencies below six gigahertz (GHz), while 5G uses frequencies from the millimeter wave bands between 28 GHz and 300 GHz. For all radio frequencies, 300 GHz is the international maximum level established to avoid any adverse health effects.

“The step from 4G to 5G is astronomically higher because they are using wavelengths that are much shorter and known to be much more harmful to humans than 4G,” Bauer said. “Verizon and AT&T are using 30 to 300 gigahertz (for 5G), which is almost three times what 4G uses.”

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Crews build a cell phone tower near Mitchell Technical College.
Submitted photo

Verizon again rejected the claim that the millimeter wave lengths used in 5G technology is harmful to humans in its document submitted to the city, which sated, “5G technology that uses millimeter wave spectrum is subject to the same FCC safety standards that apply to all frequencies of spectrum used for wireless communications. So, 5G networks using millimeter wave spectrum are not only helpful, but also must meet FCC safety standards.”

A call to action

Although some city leaders are not alarmed by the alleged health effects from 5G, at the very least, the group of Mitchell residents are requesting the council to take similar actions on 5G technology like several other cities and state governing bodies.

While 5G technology has reached every state in the U.S., some officials in other states have been cautious of the 5G rollout. California, Maine, New Hampshire and Oregon are among several states where officials have taken steps to closely regulate 5G.

Some cities like Mill Valley and Los Altos, both in California, have implemented restrictions on 5G small cell antennas from being installed near residential homes. After the Los Altos City Council denied 13 applications submitted by Verizon and AT&T for 5G installments, both companies filed a lawsuit against the city that has yet to be decided.

New Hampshire’s state government went as far as appointing a commission to study the health effects of 5G.

“It can be put on houses and internet cubes, yet there is no recourse for your neighbor,” VanErdewyk said. “Insurance companies do not insure for long term damage from electromagnetic radiation emitted by these towers, and 5G is compared to asbestos in insurance white papers.”

Sam Fosness joined the Mitchell Republic in May 2018. He was raised in Mitchell, S.D., and graduated from Mitchell High School. He continued his education at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, where he graduated in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in English. During his time in college, Fosness worked as a news and sports reporter for The Volante newspaper.
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